Blanche is thirteen years old, an albino, and tall for her age, but not as tall as her mother, Eugenie, who is a high-wire walker in the circus where they live and work. Blanche’s eyes are ice blue in an unblemished white face. Her circus costume is a black and red spotted leotard, crimson tights and red Dock Marten lace-up boots. Her hair is pure white, silky, heavy, and hangs to the back of her knees. She wants to wear black lipstick, black mascara and eye shadow to make the most of her natural attributes and look like a Goth. Eugenie will not, under any circumstances, allow this. We’re artistes, darling, not freaks, she tells her daughter.
They argue about this daily.
I want to look different, mum. And all this bloody hair, I spend hours keeping it like this.
Don’t swear! Blanche, darling, you’re beautiful and your hair is your USP.
What’s a USP?
Unique selling proposition – all artistes need one. Without your wonderful long white hair you are ordinary, everyday, and who’ll want to come and see you like that?
I want to be more than something people stare at; I’m a person not a statue. Why can’t I learn to be a high-wire walker like you?
It’s dangerous. Your father died, remember?
That’s not fair, mum. Of course I remember. Why can’t I be a tumbler or a clown?
Because of your hair, darling. It would get in the way.
It’s getting in the way now! I want to be more than my hair. I want to be me!
Eugenie sighs. I don’t want to talk bout this any more for today. I need to get ready for the matinee and be calm and concentrate on my act. Don’t sulk. You’ve got your job to do, so go and do it – and smile.
Blanche stands on the High Street handing out fliers for the circus and suffering from having her photograph taken with all and sundry; she hates this, especially the gawky teenage boys who try and kiss her, and who, when denied a kiss, abuse her.
She looks at the shops that line the street; many are closed and shuttered. Those that remain open are Eastern European food shops, hairdressers, charity shops and bakers.
She arrives back at the circus as the matinee is in full swing. She looks at her watch and realises that her mother will soon be starting her act and she should get a move on. Blanche slips in through the performers’ entrance and takes up her customary position where she will hold the rope as her mother descends from on high.
Eugenie, balancing pole held lightly in her hands, makes her final pass along the wire. Looking down she stops. As she sees Blanche’s short spiky hair Eugenie screams. Wavers. Tries to regain her balance. Topples. Clowns rush, too late, into the ring with an emergency safety net. Eugenie hits the sawdust with a thud.
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© Phil Cosker 2021
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.